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The Process Servers

Daniels, Graham light it up as Governors finally click at Heritage

_MG_8357William Blount’s Joel Graham knifes to the basket along the baseline. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

William Blount’s Governors were a loose, confident team Friday night.

Reed Daniels looks for room in the corner.

Reed Daniels looks for room in the corner.

And they were on fire.

Reed Daniels, Joel Graham and Austin Haworth opened with a lethal barrage from 3-point range. Derek Delaney got on the glass in the second half to add the inside game.

The result was a Governor team finally in rhythm after a season of near misses, William Blount pulling away for a 58-43 win Friday night at Heritage in a Pink Out Game-fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

Daniels and Graham were red hot, both connecting four times from 3-point range to finish with 15 points each. William Blount (13-12, 4-7 District 4AAA) finished with 10 3s on the night. Delaney added 13 points, his rebounding and defense perhaps playing a greater role in the Governors’ second-half breakaway.

Mountaineer swingman Hunter Bailey has emerged as one of the district’s top talents this season, ringing up a team-best 17 for Heritage (14-11, 4-7) on Friday. Much of it came after the Governors had built a substantial second-half lead, Delaney’s defense around the rim often making it difficult for the Mountaineer guards to make the entry pass.

Jake Long and Andrew Pryor finished with six points each for Heritage, with Petar Bukarica tacking on five.

Both teams battle for the ball beneath the basket.

Both teams battle for the ball beneath the basket.

The Governors have looked a team on the rise since a 53-52 loss to Alcoa at the Maryville Christmas tournament. William Blount has gone 4-5 since, but three of the losses – Hardin Valley, 63-61, Maryville, 49-43, and Bearden, 64-60 – have come by six points or less.

William Blount coach Kevin Wendle termed the loss to the Bulldogs and the others as part of a “process” to ready the Governors for the district tournament, cautioning patience. With a chance to avenge a 10-point loss to the Mountaineers back in December, that progression looked to have taken hold on Friday.

Daniels and Haworth popped for a pair of first-quarter 3s, with Delaney adding a bucket underneath, and William Blount opened an 8-5 lead after one. Graham knocked down three straight jumpers, two of them treys, as the Governors sprinted to an 18-13 advantage at the half.

After a put back from Delaney to open the third, Daniels ripped twice more from 3-point range. David Kinlaw pumped in another. Delaney tallied twice at the basket during the burst, including once off the break.

Hunter Bailey skies for two more on Friday.

Hunter Bailey skies for two more on Friday.

“I was just feeling it,” Daniels said, “and my teammates put me in a good position to score.”

Graham closed the quarter with two more bombs, including one at the horn, to open a 39-21 William Blount lead to start the fourth.

“When I shot that first one, it didn’t feel good but it went in,” Graham said. “Our focus was on defense. We just came to play our hearts out on defense and do whatever was working on offense.”

The Mountaineers went back to Bailey the final eight minutes, and the smooth big man began to chip away at the deficit, ringing up 11 fourth-quarter points to pull Heritage within 50-39 on a three-point play with 2:48 remaining.

The Governors combined to go 8-of-10 from the foul line the last three minutes to close it out.

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